The Okeeheelee Nature Center at Okeeheelee Park recently had a special new arrival when white-tailed doe Chloe gave birth to a fawn.
The nature center will host a naming event on Friday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. Visitors will learn about white-tailed deer, and then the fawn will receive its name from a list of submitted entries.
Thirty-four suggestions came in as part of a contest to name the fawn. Because there were so many great suggestions, manager Callie Sharkey said that unnamed animals at the facility will be given names from among the honorable mention winners.
The new baby — not to be confused with Handsome and Baby, the two deer living in the lower compound — was first seen by assistant naturalist Dottie Buchan.
Chloe, Tigger and the unnamed fawn live in the upper compound. Tigger, the fawn’s father, is the offspring of Handsome and Baby.
“Chloe is an older doe, and this is possibly the last baby that she will have,” said naturalist Lauren Rambo, who has studied white-tailed deer extensively. “When they are born, they are around a pound to two pounds. They’re pretty small, and then when they are older, like right now, the fawn is about three months of age, it probably weighs maybe 10 pounds.”
The fawn has white spots all over its coat, which work as camouflage. Mother deer will typically leave their babies for up to two hours at a time in a dense hiding area, making the spots, which fade over time, crucial for a fawn’s survival.
“They also are very still. Often they will not even ‘use the restroom’ while they’re waiting for mom to return. This is an adaptation so they can avoid predation,” Rambo said.
Fawns are born with spots. By their first birthday, the spots have disappeared, and become faint as the deer ages, Rambo explained.
White-tailed deer have white bellies, and the underside of their tails are white. When they throw their tails up to alert each other, it’s called flagging.
The fawn has been relaxing by the observation deck, and can often be seen around Chloe or Tigger.
“Female fawns, does, will stay with their mother for up to two years. A buck is kicked off at about eight months to a year,” Rambo said.
It is slightly early to confirm the gender of the fawn, but staff at the nature center believe it is a female.
The fawn has started eating solid food over the past few weeks, giving Chloe a break from nursing. Chloe might look thin, Sharkey explained, but she is doing well and is gaining weight back steadily as her fawn grows.
The Okeeheelee Nature Center is located at 7715 Forest Hill Blvd. For more info., call (561) 233-1400 or visit www.pbcgov.com/parks/nature.
ABOVE: The new white-tailed deer fawn at the Okeeheelee Nature Center will get its name at an event on Friday, Sept. 16.